September 18, 2015, by Tony Hong
The Marriage Market of Shanghai’s Peoples’ Park
By Lauren Fung Student of UNNC Summer School 2015.
People’s Park is considered to be one of the prettiest parks in Shanghai city, and is often a site of attraction for tourists to the area. Formerly the site of the Shanghai Racecourse, the park is located just south of Nanjing Road and to the north of People’s Square. Due to its central location, it is sometimes used as a gathering point for political rallies and demonstrations in Shanghai. The park has been the focus of major student protests, such as those in the winter of 1986-87, and was used during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, when tens of thousands of people gathered in the park and The Bund in a display of solidarity with the protesters in Beijing.
Day to day, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors to the park. People can be seen dancing, practicing Tai Chi routines, and playing games of dominoes and cards throughout the park, especially in the much favoured hidden cloisters of the rock gardens. Each Saturday and Sunday, around 3pm-5pm, the park plays host to the People’s Square marriage market. Parents and grandparents can be found with resume style posters, often displayed on umbrellas or shopping bags, stating a few simple facts about their children – height, age, income, education and other such vital information, in the hope of attracting the attention of a suitor or their parents. To tourists, these events may seem somewhat peculiar, and something of a novelty, but to those parents and grandparents it can be an important gathering, and one that is taken quite seriously.
With the introduction of the One Child Policy in 1980, many parents will be resting all their responsibility of carrying on the family onto just one single child. The increasing pressure due to this policy, coupled together with a growing demand within the younger generation for a top education and established career has led to the greater popularity of the marriage market, which has existed since 2004. In addition to the more traditional method, parents can now, as of April 2013, post an advert in what is commonly known as ‘The Tunnel of Love’, costing roughly £2 to display for five months. Entrepreneurs have begun setting up professional matchmaking services from the park, most charging much higher fees for women, due to the shortage of superior men – an estimated 80 percent of singles represented at the market are female.
Despite the low success rates many parents still hold hope on the marriage market, returning week after week searching for potential suitable partners for their offspring. It is said that Shanghainese women have incredibly high standards, making it even more difficult to make a match. Many of the children being represented at the market are even unaware, or disapproving of their parent’s actions. The sons and daughters do not have such a focus on settling down; in the growing economic developments of China, the younger generation is far more interested in establishing themselves into a career, much to the dismay of their parents.
Regardless of the success of the marriage market, the popularity seems to grow year on year. As the pressure to find a partner increases, it may be that marriage markets become commonplace throughout China, much like the dating sites of the Western world seem to have become.